The all too predictable PGA Tour stance on the rollback

Mark McGowan

Balls! (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In terms of shock value, PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan’s announcement that the Tour wouldn’t be adopting the USGA and R&A’s Model Local Rule (MLR) that would see a reduced-flight golf ball introduced ranks somewhere between another Conor McGregor assault charge and Manchester City being cleared of financial foul play.

If you were expecting any other outcome, then I’ve got a Nigerian prince I think you should meet.

After the player reaction to the shock merger plans, under-fire boss Monahan is desperately in need of some good will, and like a struggling-in-the-polls government doling out tax cuts in the budget, this was an obvious step towards worming his way back into the good books.


Of course, as a whole, the game’s elite players are against a rollback of any sort. Hell, if I was one of them, I’d be canvassing hard against any rollback as well. The equipment landscape as it is has seen them all become millionaires and much as they’d like to back their talent and ability to adapt to whatever regulations are presented, why take that chance?

Better the devil you know, and all that.

And lets not forget that Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway, Srixon and all the other major equipment manufacturers heavily line those players pockets as well. If somebody is paying you several million a year to use their clubs and balls and they ask you nicely – or even insert contract clauses compelling you – to speak out against any bifurcation then not many will say no. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune.

But where does that leave the USGA and the R&A? Anybody thinking long term who doesn’t see the value in a ball roll back, in my opinion, is either compromised or just plain foolish.

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever heard dispensed was by Italian-American philosopher Anthony Soprano when he told his son Anthony Jr. to “buy land AJ, ’cause God ain’t making any more of it.” And God ‘ain’t.Nor is Allah, Zeus, Obi Wan Kenobi or whatever religious deity you may look up to. Golf courses simply can’t keep getting longer and longer. Hell, golf courses are already under severe pressure as it is.

If you happen to live just about anywhere that doesn’t enjoy the copious amounts of rainfall that we do in this corner of Europe, water is a precious commodity and golf course maintenance a delicate and often ethical balance.

And with global populations projected to increase by almost 20 percent in the next 30 years, there is going to be a bigger strain on housing and food supplies, and large green areas that are used for select recreation are going to become harder and harder to justify.

And that’s before we even get into discussing the iconic golf courses that have already been rendered obsolete by the top pros in the men’s game and there’s just too many of those to start listing names.

Sure, I enjoy the fact that I can stand on a tee using the same ball and same driver (well, almost) that Rory McIlroy uses and marvel at the fact that he would outdrive me by 100 yards, but it will in no way alter my appreciation if I know that he’s only hitting it 70 past me with a different ball.

Rory, to his credit, is one of the few who’s spoken in favour of a rollback. Without claiming to have intimate knowledge of McIlroy’s inner feelings, I’d wager that that’s partly due to the fact that he’s already wealthy beyond almost all of his contemporaries in world golf and partly due to the fact that he’s willing to back his skillset against the others regardless.

Making courses play longer probably plays into Rory’s hands more than most and despite his lucrative contract with TaylorMade, he probably has enough weight behind him to be able to say ‘no’ when asked to toe the company line.

So, do the USGA and the R&A stick or do they twist? If both organisations make it mandatory to play the MLR ball in their championships, do a large section of the top male professionals decline invitations in protest?

Does the balance of power lie with Augusta National? The purchase of additional land and extension of the iconic 13th hole already proves that Augusta believe that their legendary golf course was no longer able to adequately challenge today’s pros on certain holes, and should they adopt the MLR ball, few if any of the players will dare to speak ill of or risk future exclusion from the Masters.

The PGA Championship doesn’t quite have the pulling power of the other three majors, but sort of like the mother in Keeping up with the Kardashians – yes, it shames me to say I’ve seen an episode or two – they’ll be desperate to ‘keep up’ with the higher profile members of their clan.

So, yeah, if The Masters is the foundation of the house of cards, I’m hoping they do the right thing and bring it toppling down. If not for tomorrow, then for 10, 20 and 50 years in the future.

But unfortunately, Augusta National aren’t as predictable as Conor McGregor or Manchester City.

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